The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, October 17, 1996

Good food with art
is The Point

HALLOWEEN'S goblins and witches have yet to show their faces but, my pretties, it's not too early to start thinking about Christmas shopping; that is, if you're not one of those (and we all know they exist) who started on that gift list last Dec. 26 and finished July 1.

This thought came to me in the form of a ceramic pot ($40) I was inspecting at The Point Restaurant, which conveniently doubles as an art gallery. Clever idea. Feed people until they're content and in a generous mood, surround them with beautiful things and ring up resulting sales.

Windward diners may be familiar with owner Lee LaPenes' Chao Phya Thai restaurant, which was a success in Kaneohe. But such is humans' lot that one success is never enough, for every day hands us another opportunity to excel. Some try to live up to the challenge, some just hope to kick some butt in the process of earning a buck.

LaPenes falls into the former category, having put body and soul into her vision. The Point , she says, "has been a dream that has finally become reality."

Like her former restaurant, The Point stands in the parking lot of a shopping center. This time, it's the Laie Shopping Center where much of the view is of asphalt and cars. But if you're driving around the island, and get hungry just as you reach Laie, The Point is like an oasis.

Because the restaurant is such a natural for circle-island drives, lunch and dinner menus merge. So instead of cutting lunch off at 2 p.m., slow drivers like myself can be assured of a meal even if reaching the eatery at 3 or 4 p.m.

If one feels like having lunch, options include a Country Burger ($5.75), a quarter-pounder with the usual works, or any one of seven signature entree plates, from Cashew Chicken ($7.65) to Red or Green Curry ($8.95) with your choice of beef, chicken, fish, shrimp or vegetables.

On the dinner menu, simple all-American fare abounds, such as Spaghetti and Meat Sauce ($7.95) or Steak and Shrimp ($12.95), with tiger shrimp butterflied, breaded and deep-fried.

Still, LaPenes' experience with Thai cooking, having lived in Thailand for six years, serves her well. Thai appetizers and curries set The Point apart from the usual moderate-price family eatery. Few such eateries would offer Spring Rolls ($5.95) this good - with a choice of vegetarian or beef fillings - generously numbering 10 per order.

Another tasty appetizer is the Chicken Satay ($6.25), with a light coating of yellow curry sauce and served with a sweetened peanut sauce. While most restaurants tend to cook their chicken until rubberized, there was no such problem here. A Thai Chicken Soup ($5.25) melded the refreshing tang of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves with the satiny richness of coconut milk.

Chicken Bar-B-Q ($7.95) is marinated with Thai herbs and honey but the flavor is purely local-style barbecue. And, of course, every dad has his own recipe for the restaurant's Garlic Beef ($7.95), beef cut into strips and sauteed in plenty o' garlic. But at prices like this he might just treat himself and let someone else do the serving and cleaning up.

Besides, you could sidle up to one of the ceramic pieces and drop a few hints dad's way. You have 68 more days to do it.

The Point Restaurant and Gallery

Where: Laie Shopping Center, 55-510 Kamehameha Highway
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Prices: About $7 to $9 per person for lunch; about $22 to $26 for two for dinner
Call: 293-5539

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

- excellent;
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- average;
- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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